Thursday, 6 April 2017
Social and Affordable Housing
6. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his views on the level of social housing to be provided on the last council-owned site in Blanchardstown (details supplied) in view of the large number of homeless persons in the area; if such a low level of provision is compulsory under his Department's mixed tenure policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17103/17]
I want to ask the Minister about the mixed tenure policy and, in particular, a case study for it. I refer to the last remaining piece of significant council land that is zoned for housing in the greater Blanchardstown area, which is identified as a homelessness blackspot. North, north west and west Dublin are key locations for homeless families. The pursuance of this policy will see the part privatisation of this last remaining piece of council land.
Under the Government's Rebuilding Ireland action plan, a particular priority attaches to using publicly owned lands for the delivery of housing as quickly as possible. In particular, we need more homes for families and individuals on the social housing waiting list and for those on low to middle incomes.
Increasing and accelerating housing delivery to meet demand across the full spectrum of housing needs is at the heart of Rebuilding Ireland. In terms of social housing, the clear commitment is to deliver 47,000 additional social houses supported by €5.35 billion in Exchequer resources. Other initiatives such as the recent announcement of €225 million of targeted funding to support the delivery of infrastructure to open up both public and private lands for development will help to stimulate wider residential construction activity and bring more new homes to the market.
In terms of State lands, delivering the most housing in the shortest possible timeframe will be supported by the acceleration in State-funded social housing and will also provide more homes for sale and rent at lower and more affordable price points. The scale and mix of housing on individual sites will be dependent on the sites themselves, particularly their scale and the wider housing context in which they are located. In regard to the site referred to by the Deputy, I understand that the council intends to develop a fully integrated, mixed tenure community in the area, including a large element of social housing. The final breakdown of the tenure mix will be determined as part of the master-planning process and my Department will work closely with Fingal County Council in considering any proposals ultimately brought forward by the council.
Those proposals will be voted on by the local authority members. In respect of other sites in Dublin, they have made quite wise decisions about trying to develop them and bring forward a mix of private and social housing and affordable properties, and rightly so. That will really benefit the community. There are other land banks in the Fingal County Council area on which it will bring forward major plans which we will support. We are very strong on this ambition to have mixed use tenure and I think it is something the Deputy would like to support.
We are talking about 90 acres of council land. There is no other land that is zoned for housing, apart from in-fill spots in existing estates. We have a massive housing crisis. The Deputy has said that he wants to provide these units as quickly as possible. There is no reason that this could not be provided if the council maintains full development of it as quickly as possible. For low and middle incomes, the reality is that there will be less social housing delivered under this policy. I have checked with a council official and was told that 1,500 units could be put in this land if it was fully developed in that way. What will happen now is that the council will only get 30% of those units, 50% will go to the private developer and 20% will be what are called affordable rental that will be priced at around 80% of the market rate, around €1,100 or €1,200. The people renting will be the low and middle income people the Minister of State is talking about. A previous Deputy asked why the Government is so dead set against having mixed occupancy by having social housing but having affordable mortgages where low income workers would be able to avail of a good, cheap mortgage, as many of us had the chance to do with the council before.
The Deputy said there is capacity for 1,500 units. The Minister, the Department and I agree, as would most people, that it would be wrong to put 1,500 social housing on that site. The site is probably best designed for around 1,000 housing units at medium development, which the Deputy would encourage as we have discussed developments in that area before here. The target at this moment is roughly 1,000. The local authority, Fingal County Council, and the members will decide what is the best development mix across the whole spectrum of housing. That is their job. They will bring forward the proposals to us as part of a master plan. We will encourage the local authority to develop the site as quickly as possible and we will help with the funding of that. The local authorities will do that, not the Deputy or I. It will assess the local area and judge what is the best development for that site. The Deputy claimed there are no other sites in the area. Fingal County Council has 81 ha at its disposal which it will work on in the years ahead.
There are no other sites in the greater Blanchardstown area. It has a population of 100,000 people. All the other sites the Deputy speaks of are north of Fingal. Some smaller sites are being developed with 20 or 30 houses. I live right beside this location, and what could be done here is that 1,000 units could be developed. Some 50% of them could be social housing and 50% could be affordable mortgages. The Minister of State seems to think that that is a problem. I live in an estate of 750 units where the council did this. It is a mixture of affordable mortgages. There were 400 affordable mortgages, 100 council tenants and 200 were sold privately. In this scenario, we need to fast track affordable housing. I have no problem having a mix of different types of people, but let us do it by keeping it in public control, where people can avail of a mortgage rather than paying 80% of what are unaffordable rents. Most of these people are going to be on the council's housing list and are going to be paying a huge mortgage when somebody next door has a differential rent. It is lunacy.
With regard to support, we will be pressuring Sinn Féin, in particular, which knows what the housing crisis is, to back this proposal. Something can exist in theory, but in practice this area is a homelessness blackspot.
It is not theory. It is international best practice, and it is best practice that we have been using here for a number of years. It has not been made up over the last couple of months.
Our colleagues in Sinn Féin recognise that and have voted accordingly on other sites around Dublin. Most people are genuinely committed to mixed-use tenure across these sites.
They are genuinely committed to delivering houses quickly and I am not convinced the Deputy is genuinely committed to that cause. We want to reach these targets and we will achieve them. The Deputy is committed to a different agenda and that is up to her, but we are following international best practice.